Microsoft Planner vs. Trello | Project management software

Image: Gorodenkoff/Adobe Stock

When thinking about which project management software is right for you and your team, you’ve probably come across Microsoft Planner and Trello. Project management tools are based on the idea of ​​card-based kanban boards rather than traditional to-do lists, creating a digital version of a physical board with various Post-It note tracking tasks. Board-like project management tools provide an immediate visual representation of work in progress or completed, and dragging a card into the Done column creates a feeling of satisfaction.

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Trello and Microsoft Planner project management tools nicely straddle the space between a simple to-do list and more complex project management tools, making them perfect for small teams or personal planning.

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What is Microsoft Planner?

Screenshot of Microsoft Planner
Picture: Microsoft

Microsoft Planner is one of many tools included with Office 365 and as such can be easily integrated with Microsoft Teams, SharePoint or a variety of other Microsoft tools. It’s one of Office 365’s unsung heroes, giving it an immediate advantage if your company is already using Office 365.

You can quickly set up buckets that mimic the columns of a physical board, and each card-like task offers the ability to add dates, priorities, subtasks, and comments. You can assign multiple people to a task, and it’s all integrated with Microsoft’s Active Directory, so if you’re already a Microsoft store, it’s easy to assign colleagues.

What is Trello?

Trello screenshot
Image: Trello

Trello is software that popularized the kanban board-like project management tool, arguably inspiring Microsoft to release Planner as an alternative to the Microsoft Stack. Multi-column tables are also easy to set up, with the added option of using background images to create visual interest.

Trello screenshot
Image: Trello

Like Microsoft Planner, each card can contain a rich set of data, ranging from dates and subtasks to a rich commenting tool that allows for attachments and formatted text.

Comparison of Microsoft Planner and Trello features

Microsoft Planner Trello
Configurable Kanban boards Yes Yes
Card-like tasks Yes Yes
Easy collaboration and sharing Yes, the best within the Microsoft ecosystem Yes, requires others to create a Trello account
Attachments on cards Yes, at map level Yes, at the level of the card and the individual comment
Integration with other apps Yes, the best within the Microsoft ecosystem Yes, via Power Ups and APIs

Common features of Microsoft Planner and Trello

Kanban board-like interface

The main interface of Microsoft Planner and Trello is the kanban board, a configurable multi-column display that lets you add cards to a column and quickly drag them between columns. If you’re used to a typical to-do list, it takes a while to get used to a board, but the power is that you can configure the board however you want.

For example, you can create a sales board with a column for leads, leads, and proposals and drag cards with customer names between each column. For personal task lists, you can create a column for each day of the week and quickly drag tasks between days to plan your week. Product teams typically create an idea backlog, an in-process column, and a ready to test column.

Cards

Within the board, each element is represented by a card. The map works very similarly in each tool, with nuances in the data items available in the map. Planner has a progress field, while Trello adds configurable labels. I find the latter more valuable depending on how I design my boards.

Likewise, while both tools allow attachments in a card, Trello allows them for individual comments, which can be useful for sharing multiple versions of a document. Trello tends to offer a bit more configurability for the board, but be careful not to overdesign your boards and risk undermining the intuitive simplicity of board-style project management tools.

Integrations

Microsoft Planner and Trello offer a variety of integrations. As you’d expect, Microsoft Planner provides deep integrations with other products in the Microsoft ecosystem. At a simple level, your entire organization will already have access to Planner with an Office 365 subscription, and a Planner tab can be added to Teams with a single click for more complex integrations. For example, you can integrate Planner with a complex enterprise project, giving users access to a simplified view of their tasks while maintaining complex enterprise-level relationships.

Trello, on the other hand, has what it calls Power Ups and Automation, which integrate with a wide variety of cloud-based products, including those from Microsoft. As a more mature product, Trello’s integrations are broad and include the usual suspects of cloud-based tools.

Choose Microsoft Planner or Trello

If you’re past simple to-do lists but are overwhelmed with WBS elements and Gantt charts, a kanban board-based tool like Microsoft Planner or Trello is a great solution. The simple idea of ​​a configurable board allows for a high degree of flexibility and structure in how your team manages their workflows.

Users can quickly grasp maps and a simple click-and-drag interface, while power users can build integrations that put complex functionality under an intuitive interface.

By evaluating these two tools, you will quickly find that they are more alike than they are different. Both offer very similar basic functionality, and the deciding factor mainly depends on whether your organization already uses the Microsoft 365 suite. The simple fact that Microsoft Planner essentially comes with Microsoft 365, available to all your existing subscribers and easily integrated to other software Microsoft sets a high bar for choosing Trello.

Trello offers a bit of additional configurability and functionality with its task cards. It may be easier to use with teams spread across multiple organizations that may not all be Microsoft 365 subscribers.

Conversely, if you’re not a Microsoft 365 user, it’s difficult to get Microsoft Planner on your own, which makes Trello the easier choice.

Outside of a few niche use cases, like requiring attachments to be associated with an individual comment, the two are comparable enough that your use of the Microsoft 365 platform is an easy deciding factor.

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